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Paul Bowman

Professor Paul Bowman

Deputy Head of School and Professor of Cultural Studies

School of Journalism, Media and Culture

+44 29208 76797
Two Central Square, Room 1.23, Central Square, Cardiff, CF10 1FS
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am Deputy Head of School and professor of cultural studies with specific interests and expertise in cultural theory and popular culture. In 2021-2022, I am also Acting Director of our MA in Creative and Cultural Industries.

Since 2015, I have been Director of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network, which organises annual international conferences and publishes its own academic journal, Martial Arts Studies, through Cardiff University Press. At the start of the 2020 lockdown during the pandemic, I started the Martial Arts Studies Podcast, which is available via all main podcast outlets and also with video on the Martial Arts Studies YouTube Channel.

I give more information about these activities on my personal website, which focuses on my work in Martial Arts Studies.

My latest academic monograph is The Invention of Martial Arts: Popular Culture Between Asia and America. It was published by Oxford University Press on 17th December 2020, and is available in hardback, paperback and ebook formats.

My previous monograph was Deconstructing Martial Arts, published by Cardiff University Press. It is available free online, here:

My teaching, research and writing focuses on the intersections of 'culture' and 'politics'. It involves the study of film, popular culture, East-West cultural encounters and post-colonial studies. (I have recently started posting sample talks, lectures, podcasts and lectures on YouTube.)

I have most recently been working to help develop the emergent field of martial arts studies, by publishing widely in the area, organising regular conferences and seminars, and by establishing the academic journal Martial Arts Studies and the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. I am also editor of a book series of martial arts studies research monographs.

In addition to working in martial arts studies, I am committed to interdisciplinary work in film, media and cultural studies. I have published widely in these areas, edited numerous journals, and am founding editor of JOMEC Journal. I also edit a cultural studies research monograph series called Disruptions, published by Rowman & Littlefield International.

I am committed to the open access sharing of academic research. To further this movement, in 2012 I proposed the establishment of an open access press, and began working with key members of Cardiff University to institute a new university press. This has become Cardiff University Press, of which I initially acted as Editor-in-Chief and now act as Chair.

I am on the editorial board or advisory panel of numerous journals of cultural studies, cultural theory, popular culture, martial arts studies, and embodied research, and I currently teach BA modules on film, cultural theory, media culture, the body and phsical culture, and supervise MA dissertations on cross-cultural studies. I also supervise PhDs on a range of areas, including film, gender, ethnicity, postcolonialism, globalisation, cultural identity and cultural politics, as well as aspects of physical culture.

Within JOMEC, I am Director of the Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group and Deputy Head of School.

I supervise PhD projects that involve any or all of the following: cultural theory, martial arts, popular culture, media culture, physical culture.























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I research widely in the areas of martial arts and culture, and have published extensively in this field. I have also published widely in the fields of cultural studies, cultural theory and areas of postcolonial studies.

I supervise PhD projects that involve any or all of the following: cultural theory, martial arts, popular culture, media, physical culture.

During the 2020 pandemic and lockdown, I started a new Martial Arts Studies Podcast, which is also available with video on the Martial Arts Studies YouTube Channel.

Below is brief information about some of my main publications.

The Invention of Martial Arts: Popular Culture Between Asia and America (Oxford University Press, 2020)

This research monograph was published in December 2020 by Oxford University Press.

"In The Invention of Martial Arts, Bowman takes readers on an expedition in media archeology. Important and surprising in turns, this exploration explains the ways that we think, talk and fantasize about these fighting systems. This exhaustively researched and theoretically informed work is sure to become required reading for students of cultural, media and martial arts studies." - Dr. Benjamin N. Judkins, Co-editor of the journal Martial Arts Studies

"Wide ranging, rich in detail, and meticulously researched, The Invention of Martial Arts traces multiple and varied representations of structured, combative praxes in the UK. Moving beyond a now-conventional inquiry into kung fu film, Bowman provides a history of the idea of martial arts as articulated through popular culture forms as diverse as novels, TV commercials, cartoons, and pop music." - Janet O'Shea, Professor, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Deconstructing Martial Arts (Cardiff University Press, 2019)

Deconstructing Martial Arts is published by Cardiff University Press and is available free online, here:

What is the essence of martial arts? What is their place in or relationship with culture and society? Deconstructing Martial Arts analyses familiar issues and debates that arise in scholarly, practitioner and popular cultural discussions and treatments of martial arts and argues that martial arts are dynamic and variable constructs whose meanings and values regularly shift, mutate and transform, depending on the context.

Placing martial arts in relation to core questions and concerns of media and cultural studies around identity, value, orientalism, and embodiment, Deconstructing Martial Arts introduces and elaborates deconstruction as a rewarding method of cultural studies.

Mythologies of Martial Arts (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017)

This wide-ranging, provocative, and entertaining collection of essays should interest all thoughtful martial artists. Whether exploring the phenomenology of kicking, legends surrounding Bruce Lee, machismo and sexism in martial arts culture, or debates over “traditional” vs. “realistic” approaches to fighting, Bowman prompts us to let down our guard and to interrogate the myriad mythologies that inform the martial arts world. - Michael Molasky, Professor of Asian Cultural Studies, Waseda University, Tokyo
Addressed to academics and martial artists alike, Bowman’s Mythologies of Martial Arts offers a series of lively and accessible but incisive, surprising, and always provocative analyses of the martial arts and their cultural significance. Bowman challenges received thinking in all its guises, in a must-read book for anyone intellectually serious about the martial arts. - Luke White, Middlesex University, UK
Following in the spirit of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (1957), Paul Bowman has set a new standard for the exploration of cultural, social and ideological criticism within martial arts studies. Whether investigating the intricacies of history, identity or humor, each chapter sheds much needed light on the global appeal of these fighting systems. Accessible yet profound in turns, this work is sure to be a classic. - Benjamin Judkins, Cornell University, USA

Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2015)

Overview: The phrase “martial arts studies” is increasingly circulating as a term to describe a new field of interest. But many academic fields including history, philosophy, anthropology, and Area studies already engage with martial arts in their own particular way. Therefore, is there really such a thing as a unique field of martial arts studies?Martial Arts Studies is the first book to engage directly with these questions. It assesses the multiplicity and heterogeneity of possible approaches to martial arts studies, exploring orientations and limitations of existing approaches. It makes a case for constructing the field of martial arts studies in terms of key coordinates from post-structuralism, cultural studies, media studies, and post-colonialism. By using these anti-disciplinary approaches to disrupt the approaches of other disciplines, Martial Arts Studies proposes a field that both emerges out of and differs from its many disciplinary locations.

Review: "What happens when a first rate scholar and long-time martial arts practitioner turns his attention to an orphan discipline? First, the field can never be considered marginal again; second, the founding fathers of martial arts studies will be challenged to step up their game to the next level; and finally, readers will get a crash course in the language and concepts of post-modern scholarship, allowing them to follow the ongoing debates in martial arts studies, where landing one good accusation of Orientalism, sexism or essentialism is like a flying roundhouse kick to the head. For those who seek a deeper knowledge of the role of martial arts in contemporary culture, and hence a deeper self-knowledge, they will find no better inspiration than Paul Bowman's Martial Arts Studies.” - Douglas Wile, Author of Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty and T'ai Chi's Ancestors.

Review: "Following Nietzsche, Paul Bowman likes philosophising ‘with the hammer’. I think what he wields as a writer is more like a magic wand. Whisking received ideas of discipline, institution, tradition, body, nation, narration, media, theory and reality out of their usual academic slots, Bowman sends them spinning into the air to meet dreams, a visionary politics of culture and deep learning in martial arts. The result is intoxicating, a rush of energy from page to page. In Martial Arts Studies, impossible combinations take sparkling new shape and thinking is free to begin again.” - Meaghan Morris, Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney.

Beyond Bruce Lee (Wallflower/Columbia University Press, 2013)

“As the title suggests, this volume takes us 'beyond' Bruce Lee to debates around postmodern and the postcolonial, martial arts philosophy, and popular culture both translated and performed. But Lee is no mere pretext for this fascinating volume - this study also reminds us how exciting and transformative his cultural emergence was and what a complex legacy he has left. Whether your interest is in Zizek or Jeet Kune Do, you'll find something here that will make you think again about this major figure.”  (Leon Hunt, Brunel University)

Beyond Bruce Lee provides nuanced, often brilliantly provocative readings of Bruce Lee as a cultural icon and event. Drawing on a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, this ground-breaking study performs Lee's injunction to create something new and true by crossing, mixing, and remixing boundaries. In the process, it also gives the reader a fantastic crash course in cultural studies.” (Jane Park, University of Sydney)

“No one writing today has a keener eye for delineating the logic of contemporary cultural politics than Paul Bowman. In Beyond Bruce Lee he powerfully demonstrates how and why Bruce Lee matters to a whole host of fields (cinema studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, sociology) without ever limiting himself to writing from the narrow perspective of any one of those disciplines. Regardless of where you position yourself in or out of any of those fields - whether you think you already know Bruce Lee or think you couldn't care less about Bruce Lee - you still must read this book.” (Samuel Chambers, Johns Hopkins University)

Reading Rey Chow: Visuality, Postcoloniality, Ethnicity, Sexuality (Peter Lang, 2013)

“Paul Bowman's Reading Rey Chow is a lucid exposition and critical framing of the work of one of the key figures in contemporary cultural and postcolonial studies. This book will be required reading for anyone engaging with this body of writing that develops a sustained and critical alternative to the canon of high theory.” (John Frow, University of Sydney)

“[This book] offers a complete introduction to Chow's works, showing the originality of her scholarship for cultural studies, postcolonialism and visual studies. Reading Rey Chow focuses on the continuous relocations and excesses that Chow provokes in critical theory through the force of her incisive analyses.” (Patrizia Calefato, Universita degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Italy)

Culture and the Media (Palgrave, 2012)

Culture and the Media looks at the relationship between what we term 'media' and 'culture', asking the question: where does one end and the other begin? Written in a lively and accessible style, this book introduces and contextualises the range of different approaches to the study of both of these fields.

Using a lively range of examples and case studies - including moral panics in the British media around punk rock in the 1970s, critiques of consumerism in the films Fight Club and American Psycho, and the YouTube-captured 'violence' of protests against student fees – Culture and the Mediashows how theoretical and disciplinary debates over the meaning of the media and culture relate to our everyday cultural experiences.

Studi culturali: Teoria, intervento, cultura pop (Progedit, Italy, 2011)

Italian translation, selected writings: “Presentando per la prima volta al pubblico italiano il pensiero di Paul Bowman, questo volume intende rinnovare la riflessione sull'agenda etico-politica propria dei Cultural Studies, che sono nati a Birmingham nel 1964 e si sono rapidamente diffusi nel mondo anglofono e nelle comunità di studiosi.”

Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film—Fantasy—Philosophy—Fighting (Rodopi, 2010)

Theorizing Bruce Lee engages questions of culture, politics, ideology and philosophy by way of a series of engagements with the popular cultural film and martial arts icon, Bruce Lee. The book deals with the cultural and theoretical issues, themes and problematics of Bruce Lee’s emergence and success, the relations between Bruce Lee films and cultural fantasy, the relations between these fantasies and cultural practices such as martial arts, and the wider cultural, political and philosophical issues of Bruce Lee’s intervention.

Leon Hunt writes: “Bruce Lee is a complex and contradictory figure, and it's a formidable task to take on the multiple facets of his legacy – fighter, film star, philosopher, nationalist, multiculturalist, innovator.  With an approach as multidisciplinary and iconoclastic as Lee's approach to martial arts, Bowman provides an original and exhilarating account of Lee as ‘cultural event’.  No one has done a better job of explaining why the martial arts 'legend' remains such an important and provocative figure”.

Similarly, Gina Marchetti writes: “Taking on Martin Heidegger and Slavoj Žižek as well as drawing on Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, Jacques Ranciere, Rey Chow, and Stuart Hall, among others, Bowman shows how Bruce Lee “speaks” to the philosophical debates that frame our understanding of global popular culture today.  Although Bowman may not be able to resolve the philosophical battles surrounding our ability to “know” Bruce Lee, he does a remarkable job of articulating why Bruce Lee remains an essential force within not only world cinema but global culture – both “high” and “low.”  Armoured with his philosophical nunchakus, Bowman goes to battle with anyone who may doubt Lee’s ongoing importance, and this book will undoubtedly become essential reading for everyone (from philosopher to kung fu practitioner) interested in popular culture and Asian cinema.”

Deconstructing Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2008)

"Deconstructing Popular Culture is an accessible, funny and stimulating introduction to popular culture and cultural studies. This is a book with both a passionate argument and a rare skill in making the 'fine print' of complex theoretical arguments accessible." (Richard Stamp, Senior Lecturer of Media and Cultural Studies, Bath Spa University, UK)

"Bowman writes very much as though he is speaking directly to a group of undergraduates: it engages them where they live. This book is an extraordinarily significant achievement." (John Mowitt, Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Minnesota, USA)

Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies: Politics, Theory and Intervention (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)

“[Post-Marxism Versus Cultural Studies is] the first sustained scholarly assessment of the scandal of post-Marxism [which] traces the struggle – both intellectual and political – of academic Marxism to keep its footing on the long march through the institution. As the “versus” that hinges his title suggests, neither post-Marxism nor cultural studies remain unscathed by Bowman’s staging of this face off. Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies rewards the serious reader concerned to come to terms with the discursive politics of the contemporary university”. John Mowitt (Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota).

“This is an ambitious book which will make a significant impact in […] an exciting field which is beginning to open up a sustained ‘thinking about’ politics from a post-structuralist perspective”. Martin McQuillan (Professor of Cultural Theory and Analysis, University of Leeds)


I have taught a wide range of film, media and cultural studies courses at all university levels (BA, MA, PhD).

From 2010 to 2017 I was Director of our PhD programme. From 2017-2021, I was Chair of the BA Exam Boards. From 2021, I am Deputy Head of the School of Journalism, Media and Culture. I am also currently acting director of the MA in Cultural and Creative Industries.

On our BA programmes, I currently teach modules in Film and Cultural Theory and East Meets West in Film and Popular Culture. I also supervise BA dissertations.

On our MA programmes, I currently supervise dissertations in the areas of film, media and cultural studies and teach the module East Meets West in Popular Culture.

For our PhD programme, I lead seminars in cultural theory and supervise PhDs on a wide range of subjects. I am interested in supervising PhD projects that involve any or all of the following: cultural theory, martial arts, popular culture, media culture, physical culture.

I have recently begun posting a few of my presentations, seminars, and sample lectures on YouTube (here).


I am from Newcastle and studied at Leeds University, gaining a BA in English, MA in Cultural Studies and a PhD in cultural and political theory in the Centre for Cultural Studies. My PhD focused on the theory of politics that underpinned the development and orientations of cultural studies. This work was developed and published as my first monograph, Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies (Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

From 2000 to 2003 I was a lecturer in cultural studies at Bath Spa University. From 2003-2008 I was first a lecturer then a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at Roehampton University, London. I came to Cardiff University in 2008, specifically to lead a core BA module called Popular Culture and to supervise PhDs. Since that time, my work has increasingly focused on the PhD programme, which I directed from 2010 to 2017. However, I continue to teach on the BA and to supervise MA dissertations.

I am also director of our Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group and The Martial Arts Studies Research Network.

I have written a range of different books. My first academic monograph was Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies (2007), which was a deconstruction of the 'post-marxist' discourse theory that informed the early development of cultural studies. I then moved into the field of popular culture, with Deconstructing Popular Culture (2008).

My sense had long been that the Western interest in Eastern martial arts (that exploded as a result of the films of Bruce Lee) was something that deserved serious attention. My first book length study of this was Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film-Fantasy-Fighting-Philosophy (2010). I completed this project with my second academic study of this matter, Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon through Film, Philosophy and Popular Culture (2013).

During the same period as my work on Bruce Lee, I also published an introductory book called Culture and the Media (2012), worked with the translator and editor Floriana Bernardi to publish a collection of my writings in Italian, and wrote a non-academic biography of Bruce Lee.

My interest in the problematics of post-colonial studies in general and the work of Rey Chow in particular led me to write Reading Rey Chow: Visuality, Postcoloniality, Ethnicity, Sexuality (2013). This monograph built on several earlier collections that I had compiled and edited, such as special issues of the journals Social Semiotics and Postcolonial Studies that focused on the work of Chow, as well as The Rey Chow Reader (2012).

My next monographs included Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (2015) and Mythologies of Martial Arts (2017).

In summer 2019, my monograph, Deconstructing Martial Arts, was published open access (i.e., free online) by Cardiff University Press. Traditional printed copies of this book are available at cost-price.

My most recent monograph is The Invention of Martial Arts: Popular Culture Between Asia and America. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2020.

My recent research focused on representations, theories and practices of self-defence. I am also carrying out funded research into the media history of taijiquan in the UK, and working on the relations between 'Asian' martial arts and 'Continental' European philosophy.

I am interested in supervising PhD projects that involve cultural theory, martial arts, popular culture, media culture, physical culture.

I have recently started to post some lectures, talks, presentations, interviews and podcasts on YouTube (here).

Honours and awards

  • Adjunct Professor, Waikato University, 2013
  • Research Leave Fellowship Scheme Award, 2014
  • Visiting Professor, Ljubljana University, Slovenia, 2014
  • AHRC Research Network Funding: Martial Arts Studies Research Network, 2015
  • Honorary Black Belt, World Taekkyeon Headquarters, Seoul, South Korea, 2015
  • Presented with a Tewhatewha (General's Staff) by Head of the Maori King's Guard, 2016.

Professional memberships

  • Director of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network

Academic positions

  • (2012-16) Cardiff University, Reader, Media and Cultural Studies
  • (2010) Cardiff University, Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
  • (2008) Cardiff University, Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
  • (2004) Roehampton University, Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
  • (2003) Roehampton University, Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
  • (2001) Bath Spa University, Lecturer, Cultural Studies
  • (1997-8) Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds, Visiting Lecturer
  • (1996-2000) University of Leeds, Research Assistant, Journal Editor, Visiting Lecturer
  • (1996) University of Leeds, School of Continuing Education, Tutor

Committees and reviewing


  • (2015-) Director: Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group
  • (2014-) Editor in Chief: Cardiff University Press
  • (2010-17) Director of Postgraduate Research Studies (PhD Programme)
  • (2009-15) Director: Race, Representation and Cultural Politics Research Group
  • (2011-) Founder/Director: Interdisciplinary Film and Visual Culture Research Network
  • (2011-) Board Member: Cardiff University Graduate College Board
  • (2011-) Founding Editor: JOMEC Journal
  • (2010-) Member: Research Committee
  • (2010-) Member: Staffing Committee
  • (2010-) Member: School Board
  • (2008-) Member: Representing Migration and Mobility Research Network


  • (2010-13) Co-Director: (Re)Constructing Multiculturalism Research Network
  • (2011-13) Member: Cardiff University Senate
  • (2010-13) Member: The President’s Research Scholarships Review Panel
  • (2014-) Steering Group: Cardiff University Press
  • (2012) Chair: School Approval Panel, MA in Journalism & Digital Media, 9th November
  • (2008-10) Chair: BA Admissions Subcommittee, Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies
  • (2010-13) Member: Researcher and Graduate School in Humanities Management Group


I supervise PhD students in the areas of

  • Cultural Studies
  • Cultural Theory
  • Popular Culture
  • Martial Arts Studies
  • Media Culture
  • Physical Culture

I supervise PhD projects that involve the following: cultural theory, deconstruction, martial arts, popular culture, media culture, physical culture and the body.

Current supervision

Rebecca Wright Garraway

Rebecca Wright Garraway

Research student